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currently october 4 2015

Briefly | I didn’t get a chance to update last Sunday because I was in the Twin Cities for the weekend and we had a busy day — breakfast at a fancy donut shop, the Half Price Books Fall Clearance Sale (more on that later this week), a visit to my grandma at her new nursing home, and some other shopping for fall clothes. It was a good day!

Reading | It’s been a good, if slightly slow, couple of weeks in reading. I finished The Residence by Kate Anderson Brower, an inside look at the staff who serve at the White House. It was a random grab off the New Books shelf at the library, but pretty great. I was also really excited to get an ARC of my friend Chrissy Kolaya’s debut novel, Charmed Particles, in the mail. The plot is a little hard to describe — it involves theoretical physics, gentleman explorers, and local government controversy in a small town — but the novel as a whole was delightful. I can’t wait to write more about it. And finally, I just finished up Blackout: Remembering Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola. It was excellent.

Watching | Fall tv is back! While this doesn’t bode well for my participation in #15in31, I am looking forward to a couple of new shows. The premier of Quantico was delightfully silly, and I laughed a lot at Rob Lowe and Fred Savage in The Grinder. I’m reserving judgement for everything else.

Watching II | We went to see The Martian yesterday. It was great! Definitely a faithful adaptation of the book — Matt Damon was pretty much perfect as Mark Watney.

Listening | I finished Cinder by Marisa Meyer and started in on the second book in the Lunar Chronicles series, Scarlet. Good stuff, so far.

Making | Inspired by Amanda at Book Riot, I’m going to make a “Katniss Cowl” for a friend of mine. We picked out an awesome dark purple yarn that I can’t wait to start working with.

Cooking | Slow cooker pot roast! My favorite.

Blogging | Over the last couple weeks I shared some highlights of my trip to London, gave an update on my progress for the Read Harder Challenge, and decided I’m going to join Andi’s (Estella’s Revenge) #15in31 reading project for October.

Loving | I didn’t need new fall clothes, but new clothes can be satisfying. I grabbed a few new short from Old Navy that are making me happy (but I cannot find links online to share… so annoying!).

Avoiding | I’m still not happy about going into my (home) office. It’s such a mess and I have no motivation to do anything serious about it.

Wanting | I hope we get to stick with fall weather for awhile. It’s been chilly, but overall pretty nice. Winter can just wait.

Anticipating | I’d really like to get a bunch of writing done this morning. The Vikings don’t play until the late afternoon game, so I think I can get ahead on some work before settling in to crochet and enjoy the game.

Happy Sunday, everyone! What are you reading today? 


#15in30: An October Reading Project


On Monday, Andi (Estella’s Revenge) put out a little reading challenge for October: 15 books in 31 days. In her post, Andi said she felt like she needed a little push to “dig into some reading with a vigor.” And, like she said in the closing comment of her post, “No pressure. If we do it, we do. If we don’t, at least we read some stuff!”

I love this, and so I am taking up the call — 15 books in October! Unfortunately, I’m not going to participate in Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon on Oct. 17 (sob!), but I think I can make some good reading time over the other weekends this month and get to at least 10 books before the calendar changes to October.

And of course, this gives me an excuse to make a fall reading list! Here’s what I’d love to be able to pick up and get through:

fiction for october

The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemison — I miss reading fantasy and Jemison is an author who has been getting some good buzz lately.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho — Same reason as above! Lots of bookish friends have raved about this one and it sounds so fun.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel — I didn’t adore Wolf Hall, but I’m still in enough of a Tudor mood that I want to grab this second in a trilogy.

nonfiction for october

The Witches by Stacy Schiff — A book about the Salem witch trials in October. Yep, yep, yep.

Speed Kings by Andy Bull — I am looking for a book to scratch the same reading itch as The Boys in the Boat and I think this might be it: Olympic bobsledding in the 1930s!

The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan — This is a memoir about a woman who spends a year living more gratefully, which claims to have a good mix of personal experience and research. I’m intrigued.

Those are all a bit on the long side, so definitely going to throw in some comics (maybe Saga Vol. 5 by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples) and some audio books (Scarlet by Marissa Meyer).  We’ll see though, definitely just going to go where my reading takes me.

What books are you excited about for October?


#ReadHarder: Five Books to Go!

read-harder-almost-finisher-2015I’m almost done with the Read Harder Challenge! End-ish of September seems like as good a time as any to check in on how I’m doing on this challenge I didn’t think I’d actually be able to finish.

Since I first wrote about Read Harder in May, when I’d finished 12 of 24 tasks, I’ve managed to cross off several more. Here are my additions since then:

  • A sci-fi novel — 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  • A romance novel — The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
  • A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade — Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  • A book that is a retelling of a classic story — Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid
  • An audiobook — Missoula by Jon Krakauer
  • A book that someone else has recommended to you — The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
  • A book that was originally published in another language — My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

This leaves me with five tasks to complete in the next three months:

  • A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25
  • A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65
  • A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture
  • A collection of poetry
  • A book published before 1850

I’ve got lots of recommendations for finishing up these five books, but I’m planning to continue this challenge the way I’ve been doing it all year — checking off books when the mood strikes and seeing if I can “win” this one without “forcing” myself to pick up a book I’m not interested in. Yes, I totally know how silly that sentence sounded. I’m off to read a book.

P.S. If you’ve been participating in the Read Harder challenge, make sure to check out this post where you can get a prize for completing all the tasks. And if you’re struggling to find reads for the last few tasks, the Read Harder Goodreads group is a great resource.


Adventures in Europe: Highlights of London

london title card

Spending three weeks out of the country is a bit overwhelming — getting there, being there, and coming home — but also completely wonderful. I was going to try and cram all of it into a single post, but soon decided that was silly — expect several posts over the next few weeks with some highlights from our trip.

Because my sister, Jenny, and I were going to be London for about a week at the beginning of the trip, we decided to rent an apartment using Airbnb. This was my first time using that service, but it ended up being perfect. We found a small, one bedroom flat in central London, just south of the River Thames. It was easy to walk or catch the Tube to everywhere we wanted to go, and convenient to stop back at the flat in the afternoon for a break on long days.


On our first full day in London we visited Notting Hill and Kensington Palace. Jenny was excited about Notting Hill because of the architecture. I was excited about the shopping!

notting hill

The rain held off for most of the morning, so we managed to see the outside of Kensington Palace and some of the gardens before the day’s main event — tea at The Orangery.

kensington palace

The Orangery is a restaurant set in the middle of the gardens at Kensington Palace. They do a variety of lunch options, but we planned to get into the London spirit with afternoon tea (egg mayonnaise and cress bridge roll, Coronation chicken wrap, smoked salmon and cream cheese mini bagel, cucumber and fresh mint sandwiches, orange-scented and currant scones served with Cornish clotted cream and English strawberry jam, and an assortment of afternoon tea pastries). It was so good!

kensington tea

The inside of Kensington Palace is equally as amazing as the outside. It’s been a residence of the royals since the 1600s, and is still the official residence for several members of the royal family. The state rooms are open to the public and, when we were there, featured exhibits on King William III and Queen Mary II, Queen Victoria, and fashion of the modern monarchs.

We were slightly less lucky with the weather the next day, when we planned to go to the Tower of London. We figured the rain would keep tourists away (partially true) but, unfortunately, they don’t run all of the regular tours on days with rain — apparently tour participants are prone to poking each other in the eye with umbrellas!

tower of London

Despite the periods of torrential rain, I think we got our money’s worth at the Tower. In addition to it’s historic uses as a fortress, prison, and mint for England’s currency, the Tower of London is also home to the Crown Jewels. And although most people associate the Tower with Henry VII and the execution of a couple of his wives, executions actually took place at the Tower until World War II.

tower bridge

The Tower is right in the middle of London, so you can see some famous sights along the walls, including Tower Bridge (behind me, above). One of the coolest exhibits at the Tower was in the White Tower, the Line of Kings. This massive exhibit shows off armor and weapons of many royal kings. And there’s a giant dragon made of weapons!

armor dragon

I’m going to skip talking about Thursday, our visit to Warner Bros. Studios for the Making of Harry Potter Tour, because I want to do a whole post about it. So, on to Friday we headed to Buckingham Palace.

buckingham palace

Because Queen Elizabeth II was not in residence, the State Rooms at the palace were open to the public for tours. Pictures weren’t allowed, unfortunately, because this was one of the coolest things we saw on the trip. The State Rooms are where the Queen hosts royal dignitaries, bestows honors, and conducts other ceremonial business. The exhibit showed how the palace gets ready for state dinners and some of the art and furniture that is special to these rooms. Afterwards, we headed over to grab some photos of Big Ben and Parliament. I wish we’d gone on tours there, but we were both feeling pretty exhausted at this point.

big ben and parliament

On Saturday we did a bookstore tour of London with Jackie (Farm Lane Books) — I wrote about that in more detail in my post about my book loot from the trip. That evening we went to see a play, The 39 Steps, as the Criterion Theater. It was really delightful — four actors playing 139 characters in a theatrical melodrama based on an Alfred Hitchcock film.

Sunday and Monday were both rather random days. We spent a little time at the British Museum and the British Library (so cool!), visited some other neighborhoods of London we hadn’t caught yet. The photo below is at the British Library and shows the King’s Library, a collection curated by King George III as the first royal library.

british library

A big part of our time in London that I didn’t share many photos of was visiting famous buildings — Jenny is an architect and she had a lot of information to share about them. I teased her about it at the time, calling them “Architecture Forced Marches of London” but they were actually pretty fun. This photo is from the courtyard at the Sommerset House… I can’t remember what is cooling about it except that it’s old!

sommerset house

So, there’s just a really quick look at the first several days of our trip spent in London. After we left London we spent a few days in Bath, then headed to Greece to (briefly) visit Athens and spend time on a beach on Poros. I’ll share some of those details, plus Harry Potter day, really soon.

Previous Posts | Book Nerd Tourism: Book Loot of London


Currently | The Challenges of Reentry

currently september 20

Briefly | Getting back into the swing of real life has been… rough. Since everything got put on hold while I was gone, every project feels like pushing a boulder from sitting still, no momentum. But I’m trying to be gentle with myself, working under the assumption that life will get moving again shortly.

Drinking | Fall tea is back! I am not a big pumpkin spice person (sorry not sorry), but I do love fall tea flavors — I ordered some Cranberry Spice Hibiscus and Hot Apple Cider this week. Yum.

Reading | I found time to read four books while I was on vacation, and seemed to find a bit of a reading groove this week. I grabbed The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower from the new books shelf at the library and thought it was really delightful — sort of a Downton Abbey-esque look at the workers who help make the White House function.

Watching | Season three of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is on Netflix! This is not a drill people!

Listening | I’m mid-way through Cinder by Marissa Meyer and really digging it so far. Young adult fantasy/dystopia is my sweet spot when it comes to audio books, so I’m excited there are three (I think?) books after this to dive into.

Making | Fall means it’s time to break out the crocheting again! I started a simple scarf while I was traveling and want to start looking for other projects.

(Not) Cooking | Because I’m a grown up, I ate cereal or pizza for dinner every night this week. Delicious. But I probably should cook some real food for dinner.

Blogging | I guess blogging is a thing I still do? Ha! I’m going to get back in the groove, I promise, I’m just not sure how quickly. I am grateful for all your patience.

Promoting | I haven’t read it yet, but Ta-Nehisi Coates’ piece in The Atlantic “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration” — looks to be a big read.

Hating | My desk and my office. Both spaces are out of control, but I can’t justify buying a new desk until we move to a different house. I need to just purge, purge, purge.

Loving | Margaritas! And good friends. I got to catch up with a bunch of people the last few days which has been fun.

Wanting | I’ve got all the supplies for the scrapbook I’m planning to make for my trip, I just need to get started. I’m not great at finishing projects like this, but I did a lot of journal-writing while we were away so I have good base to start from.

Anticipating | I get to watch my first regular season football game of the year today! it’ll be the Vikings, so I will inevitably be disappointed, but oh well. Gotta start somewhere.

Happy Sunday, everyone! What are you reading today?